On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Hudson County.
King, Gruccio and Brochin. The opinion of the court was delivered by Gruccio, J.A.D.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
We granted leave to appeal and are asked to determine whether a trial Judge may order an attorney, other than counsel who is designated by R. 4:25-4, to proceed with the trial of a case.
Paul A. Rowe is the designated counsel for defendants in Harmon Cove II Condominium Association, Inc., (Harmon Cove) v. Hartz Mountain Industries, Inc., et al. (Hartz Mountain), a Hudson County matter which was filed on April 13, 1984. Plaintiffs' present counsel, Louis J. Santore, was substituted as counsel in October 1990. Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith, Ravin & Davis was substituted as counsel for defendants in February 1988. From 1988 through 1991, numerous status and management conferences were held. The trial Judge entered an order dated August 9, 1991, which provided, inter alia:
7. On October 3, 1991 at 8:45 a.m. a status conference will be held before the Honorable Joseph T. Ryan, Judge of the Superior Court and the parties should be prepared to discuss settlement negotiations at that time;
8. The decision to bifurcate the trial into mini trials will be determined on October 3, 1991;
9. If the court decides in favor of mini trials, the first mini trial . . . will take place on December 2, 1991;
10. If the trial is not bifurcated by the court on October 3, 1991 a trial date for the complete matter will be January 2, 1992;
On December 24, 1991, the trial Judge in a sua sponte statement on the record said:
All right, and then, the only other thing I just wanted to state on the Record, that the designated trial attorney is on trial in a case that may take six months. I don't think he should have gotten himself involved in a case like this. This case was set down a long time ago to be tried at the beginning of January, 1992. I've carried it for two months until March 9, ...